Feline Focus

Feline Focus
My latest puma, July 2016

Carra

Carra
Beloved companion to Sarah, Nov 2015

Window To The Soul

Window To The Soul
Watercolour Horse, June 2015

Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauties
Watercolour Lionesses, Nov 2012

QUOTES QUOTA

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."

Groucho Marx




Snow Stalker

Snow Stalker
Another snow leopard - my latest watercolour offering - July 2013

09 November 2017

Love's Labours Lost The Plot

Crikey!  That last post was rather laboured, wasn’t it?  I know my blog name includes the word Rambling in the title, but that felt more like a trek through untamed jungle, with only a butter knife to hack back the overgrowth.  

And, my God, was there a lot of overgrowth.  I know I said that I’d done a lot of editing to get it down to that size (four and a half pages… FOUR AND A HALF A4-SIZE PAGES!!!  I usually manage to stick to two), but obviously not enough: that was minor pruning, rather than the lopping with a machete which was really needed.  And perhaps a blowtorch.

I spoke with my friend about it after she’d read it, and she confirmed that it was as laborious to read as it had been to write.  I like that about her (among other things).  She always tells me the truth, without sugar-coating it; but it never feels like criticism (except when I’m having a really bad day, in which case saying hello to me could be misconstrued as a criticism).

We agreed it was not one of my better pieces, being somewhat lacking in the humour department (though I had intended for it to be funny; the initial idea was humorous, but the long, drawn-out execution kind of squeezed all the fun out of it, so it did end up feeling that way - like an execution).  And the length… 

I was thinking about going back and editing it some more, but she said to leave it: it would be a reminder of what I’d done ‘wrong’, and what not to do next time.

Because, you see, I have actually developed a set of principles or guidelines for writing my blog posts, despite the fact that it may all seem rather random at times.  And they actually fit into an alliterative list, which pleases the little linguist in me immensely.  So, they are:

Keep It Simple - basically stick to one main topic or theme within each post.  This helps me to stay focused, and there’s the possibility that I might get the thing completed within a week of starting it if I can stay on the path, and out of the forest of my distractions…

Keep It Short - I have found, through trial and error, that approximately two A4 pages is enough for me to say what I need to say: any more and I start repeating myself (just with different words, so I don’t notice it).  Plus, the long ones are usually a sign that I’ve shifted into lecture mode, where I’m now trying to teach something or make a point; I’ve grown attached to the sound of my own thoughts; and I feel the weight of their importance and the need to share them.  God, are those boring posts to write, and read…

Keep It Sweet - by this I mean funny, but the only alliteration I could come up with was either Sweetly Funny or Seriously Funny, and it spoilt the poetic metre I’ve got going on…  So, sweet it is.  Being rather a depressed donkey by nature, I didn’t want this to be a place where I got to cement my woes ‘on paper’, as it were, and share the gloom and despondency of life.  This was meant to be a place where I could share the hope, strength, and experience of having initially survived life as an undiagnosed autistic with adhd (now moving into thriving), and the sense of humour which is so intrinsically a part of that shift, and necessary to keep cultivating in order to keep that donkey at bay.  So the minute I feel myself labouring on a post, being driven rather than guided to write, and having lost interest in the topic, then the humour has gone, and it’s time to either reassess, or abandon post.  As my friend would say, “how important is it really, in the scheme of things, if you don’t finish it?”  This helps to put things into perspective, which is also what humour does.
    
And so, before I break one or more of my guidelines, here endeth the deconstruction of my last post.  May it rest in peace.

06 November 2017

My Imaginary Self

You know, I often feel as if there are two of me, and now I know why - there are.  I’d like you to meet my Imaginary Self.  She’s the one who convinces me that I am who I’m not, that I can do what I can’t, and, as a result, leads me off down rabbit holes which result in frustrating dead ends - not to mention time wasted on yet another distraction, of which my life seems to be one long series.

She’s been with me throughout most of my life, and has become so interchangeable with my true self that I often can’t tell which of us is real, and which the fantasy.  Even as I’m writing about ‘her’ now, I’m not quite sure whether I should be referring to her as being the one who has created, and believes, all of this false stuff about myself, and therefore convinces me of it; or whether it’s that I have created her, through the combination of ignorance, confusion, the influence of the neurotypical world, and (in recent times) resistance to accepting being an autistic with adhd, and what that really means.  As you can see, she has almost literally taken on a life of her own.  

However, this life she imagines is real doesn’t bear much resemblance to the one I inhabit, which is part of the problem - we are frequently in conflict because I cannot live up to her expectations, and she refuses to accept that I can’t do what she wants me to do, rather choosing to believe it’s because I’m refusing to try (that way she retains the illusion of being in control). 

I’ve been trying to write this post for weeks, now, and I’ve floundered around in the introduction, attempting to explain what I mean by her, instead of allowing the rest of the post to do that.  So I’m going to cut this (relatively) short, and try to be brief and succinct - though that, too, is an example of something my imaginary self can do, and I can’t.  Brevity is not my strong point: everything I write requires extensive editing.  You should see the draft notes for this post.

1  My Imaginary Self has both autistic and neurotypical wiring, which means that she thinks both autistically and neurotypically.  She isn’t clear on the exact details of how this works (details and logic not being her forté, unless it involves getting lost in the minutiae of the English language), just that she believes it does.  As such, she thinks she can suppress/control/manage some of her autistic/adhd symptoms by applying some of the neurotypical techniques she has learnt in her extensive research.  My real self has been trying to do this for fifty years (unconsciously for the most part): it hasn’t worked yet. 

2  As I mentioned above, details and logic are not my forté, but she harbours the illusion that she is a logical, linear, concise, analytical, academic thinker.  She’s not.  She couldn’t think in a straight line even if she had a ruler, and she cannot get from A to B without having to detour through the rest of the alphabet - usually more than once, and often encompassing the alphabets of any other random languages which might happen to be lying around to distract her (hello Sanskrit).

This illusion is compounded by the fact that she loves writing and everything about the English language, which she mistakenly believes means that she must be academic.  It doesn’t, and she’s not.  She’s a creative thinker - it’s just taking her a long time to figure this out, because she thinks in words not pictures (though she does paint pictures with words, which confuses her further).  Plus, she harboured a dream to go to Oxford University and be a scholar (like her hero, C S Lewis), even though she found school and college incompatible with her personality and mode of learning.  In her classically rigid autistic way, she thinks there’s only one way of learning in order to prove your intelligence, which requires the acquisition of a lot of information on a wide range of subjects, most of which actually bore the arse off her.

3  My Imaginary Self is a frustrated musical prodigy.  My real self has no musical talent whatsoever.  Based on this delusion, I spent one hundred and fifty pounds on a music keyboard to fulfil this supposed lifelong ambition to learn to play the piano, only to find it tedious beyond measure.  After hardly using it, I gave it away.

4  This same musical genius also believes that she’s a stifled seamstress waiting to burst forth and make her own clothes, because she thinks this would be easier than having to shop for them.  Unfortunately, the real me happens to be as interested in, and adept at, dressmaking as I am spot-welding, and my talent extends only as far as basic repairs, which I procrastinate over doing - a fact I should have taken notice of before I decided to fork out another hundred and fifty quid on a brand new sewing machine, which has now sat, hardly used, in a cupboard for about three years.  Another item to be donated.  

5  My Imaginary Self believes that putting off doing things will not only be temporary, but also make them easier to do later, when she feels better able to face them.  My real self is a chronic procrastinator who just defers action automatically, no reason required.  And it never makes it easier, but we always forget that.

6  My Imaginary Self thinks she’s tidy at heart, that being a minimalist would suit her, and this way she would get more writing and art done because this, she has read, is the way to combat clutter, and eliminate distractions.  My real self is chaotic, loves collecting and displaying things (like books), but also hoards things which she often doesn’t want to do, but can’t seem to let go of easily (paper, boxes, and containers in particular).  She’s attached to things more than people, and she’d panic if she had to live in a home with very little on display to stimulate her senses.  And it wouldn’t matter how clinically organised her environment was, something would still distract her - most probably the fact that her environment was too clinically organised.

7  My Imaginary Self thinks she’ll get bored if her choices are limited, so she needs lot of options to assuage my adhd; plus, she thinks this way she can overcome the narrow-focused obsessiveness of my autism, and become a more interesting, fully-rounded person.  My real self gets overwhelmed and in a flap if she’s faced with more than one alternative, and will often end up doing nothing at all because her brain has had a mini-meltdown and temporarily stopped functioning.  Or she won’t be able to focus on the thing she is doing, because she’ll be wondering whether she should have chosen one of the other options.

8  My Imaginary Self is erudite, and able to express this in a calm, relaxed, thoughtful, measured way when speaking in person to people.  My real self either clams up entirely because her mind goes blank when faced with another human being (or is reduced to repeating the few inane bits of small-talk she has learnt to express in such situations), or explodes into full-on twitter like a demented sparrow, where she just cannot shut up, and everything that comes into her head leaks out of her mouth.  This is often mistaken for garrulous sociability, when in fact it’s a sign of overstimulation and social anxiety.  Her erudition is confined to the written word, and she’s always relieved when she can escape back into blessed solitude.

9  My Imaginary Self chooses the ideas which are useful to her that she allows into her mind, and discards the rest.  She can distinguish between what’s meant to be taken literally (not to mention seriously, and personally), and what isn’t.  My real self is a sponge - a literal-minded, gullible, easily influenced, sheep-like sponge.  And, contrary to what my Imaginary Self believes, she hasn’t got a clue half the time what’s in her own mind, or why she does what she does - except that it’s usually as the result of something she read or heard somewhere… 

So, there she is - my Imaginary Self.  It took a while to wrangle her onto the page, but she’s there now - in the only place where she does exist, other than my own mind.  Now to try to leave her here… 

Namaste - I bow to the real you

06 August 2017

LITERARY INSPIRATION #9

BOOK - MOON OVER MANIFEST by Clare Vanderpool


 ‘I thought I knew a thing or two about people.  Even had my list of universals.  But I wondered.  Maybe the world wasn’t made of universals that could be summed up in neat little packages.  Maybe there were just people.  People who were tired and hurt and lonely and kind in their own way and their own time.
Once again, I felt off balance, as if I was playing tug-of-war and the person I was tugging against let go.’


‘They talked of their common experiences of travelling to America on ships filled with immigrants, tears of emotion welling up as they recounted their first sightings of the Statue of Liberty, and the joy and fear of arriving at Ellis Island.
“I was so afraid I would be turned back,” said Mrs Cybulskis, wiping her brow with the back of her hand.  “The way they examined everyone for disease and malady.”  The women nodded in agreement.  They had all experienced the fear of being labelled unfit to enter America.  A simple chalk mark drawn by the medical examiner on one’s clothes could have a person barred from entering his newly adopted country.  An E for eye problems, an L for lameness, an H for heart problems.  They would have to board another boat and go back to wherever they’d come from no matter how long a journey they had just travelled.’

My experience with buying and reading recently published children’s books has been a bit hit and miss - I prefer older books, which I have found are generally (though not always) much better written.  But occasionally I’ve stumbled upon some good newer ones, this being one of those.  

I really loved this book, and it made me cry (though that isn’t to say that it is one of those awful, gloomy books, designed to manipulate your emotions - I read one of those a few months back, and I was so angry with it I gave it away: I couldn’t bear to have it in my home, it pissed me off so much).  It’s bitter-sweet, and so beautiful.

As you can see from the second quote above, it is also extremely relevant to what is going on in the world today, with the “immigrant crisis”.  And yet the book, published in 2010, switches between a dual timeline of 1917/18, and 1936, and is describing how immigrants were treated back when they were fleeing Europe and the devastation of the First World War.  
So nothing much has changed, then.  Immigrants are still as unwelcome as they’ve always been, it seems.  And yet the irony in this is the fact that most of us are either immigrants, or the descendants of immigrants (whether in the recent or long distant past), but so many people don’t realise, or choose to forget, that fact.  No matter how you try to look at it, “All is One” and, therefore, we are all part of the whole.

Peace to all.  Namaste.


05 August 2017

FOOD FOR THOUGHT #3

"My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust.  But how had I got this idea of just and unjust?  A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.  What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?"     C S Lewis

I do love Lewis, despite not being a Christian myself.  

As to his quote, I do this all the time (mostly now in other areas of my life), and it always leaves me feeling frustrated, conflicted, and out of synch with myself and God.  And where do I get my ideas?  From other people: and not just non-autistic people (who are my default guides to how to live a 'better' life), but also from people who are as out of step with God (or even more so) as I am.  The blind leading the blind, indeed.

I compare my "universe" with other peoples', which only serves to confirm my beliefs about myself - that I'm not doing well enough; that I should try harder; that I'd be happy if I did it someone else's way, blah blah blah.

Take, for example, my obsession with the idea of the need for discipline, and more productivity.  My personality, my wiring, does not lend itself to consistency - I am, by nature, erratic.  I get enthusiastic about something, and want to do it all the time (right now I'm really into posting these quotes - it'll pass, unfortunately).  But then, after a while, I lose interest and move on to the next thing (told you it'll pass).  

But rather than accepting this about myself, going with the ebb and flow (no-one ever mentions the ebb), trusting that I'll always return to the things which really are my special interests (like writing, and art), and that this is God directing me, instead I compare myself to those people who propagate the idea of self-determination (some of them even talk about "setting an intention" to do something, which makes it sound quite spiritual, but which, on careful examination, often looks suspiciously like self-will to me); who elevate and seem almost to worship the ideas of daily discipline, productivity, and consistency.  

Yet I fail, every time, to live up to these expectations and ideas - ideas which seem to be universally accepted as being the blueprint for a happy, successful, and fulfilling life.  So, of course, for those of us who fail to follow these guidelines, the natural assumption is that our unhappiness, etc is because we aren't following them, and trying harder to walk this path is the only way to to achieve these goals, and get what we want.

And therein lies my other source of conflict - my relationship with God. As I understand it, I get a choice to either follow God's guidance, or my own; to ask Him/Her/It to direct my life and my thinking (this is where inspiration comes from), or to think for myself (which basically means following other people, because I'm relying on my limited stock of acquired information, nearly all of which originates from them; and which also incorporates my wobbly autistic interpretation of said ideas).  So what I want, or think I want (if I even have half an inkling, which I mostly don't), is not necessarily what I need, or what God wants for me. 

To me, therefore, if I'm following God, then me deciding what I want to do is in direct opposition to this.  The minute I decide I want to be more productive, or more organised, I fall back on my default, narrow-minded understanding of what this means (the one that I have picked up from other people, and which always involves a plan of some sort, even if it's just a mental decision to write or paint every day, for example), and therefore take back control of directing my own life again, rather than turning it over to God to guide me throughout the day.  

Being rigid in nature makes it impossible for me to shift focus between any plan for the day that I've made, and trying to let God direct me. Following the plan becomes my obsession.

Along with that, my black or white viewpoint also impedes my ability to see that there might be any alternative interpretations - that there isn't just one way to manifest organisation, productivity, consistency, etc. As my friend Dee frequently jokes, I am actually consistent - consistently inconsistent; I'm also reliably unreliable; and even chaotically organised.  

Yet I laugh these things off, and view them as qualities which need to be overcome, because the bar against which I am measuring them is one created by a society which is primarily obsessed with efficiency, productivity, and keeping people under control, and doesn't really allow for creative alternatives.  Things which God isn't interested in at all.  S/He doesn't want to control me; S/He doesn't want me to follow the crowd.  S/He wants me to be free.

So the assumption that the reason I can't find happiness, peace, and fulfilment is because I'm failing to try harder to follow the path laid out by other people, is wrong.  The reason I can't find those things is because their path is the wrong one for me: it's too narrow, and it literally leads to unhappiness. Yet I keep insisting on trying to walk down it.  And God won't walk down it with me.  So there goes my peace, happiness, freedom, and fulfilment, waving to me as I walk away from Him, once again.  

       

03 August 2017

FOOD FOR THOUGHT #2

"God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine.  A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else.  Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself.  He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on.  There is no other.  That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion (spirituality).  God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself because it is not there."     C S Lewis

Having tried numerous other options to achieve happiness and peace, I know this to be true for myself.  Finding this connection with God (as I understand Her/Him/It) is the greatest gift I received from following the AA 12 Step Programme.  

It even says in the Basic Text (which is nicknamed the AA Big Book) that the solution to our problem is a Power greater than ourselves, which we choose to call God; that the purpose of doing the Steps is to find that Power; and that the Power will solve our problem -  NOT that S/He/It will help us to solve our problem.  We've proven that we can't sort it out, which is manifested in our various addictions, unhealthy behaviours, and the variety and variance in  degrees of emotional and mental turmoil and/or illness which we suffer.  

And this problem of which we speak?  Life.  That conundrum which causes so many of us such problems in our attempts to navigate our way through it; especially because we believe we have to go it alone, relying only, or primarily, on our own resources, our own thinking.  

All of which turn out to be limited, and temporary, in their ability to bring about a state of happiness or peace (if they even manage to achieve that at all - I thought that writing, and art, would do that for me: turns out that a lot of the time they make me feel worse, not better!)  

02 August 2017

FOOD FOR THOUGHT #1

"We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and privacy: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship."     C S Lewis

Isn't it amazing that C S Lewis died in 1963, well before the age of the internet and social media, and yet his words are so prescient?  It proves to me, yet again, that nothing we encounter or experience in this world is ever truly original.  The material world may change, and therefore the nature of our current distractions: but human beings don't.  I find this continuity comforting.

01 July 2017

Confounding Co-Factors

Here’s a conundrum - what sometimes looks like addiction, feels like addiction, sounds like addiction, but isn’t?  Answer - autism.

How so?  Well, take, for example, my perennial problem with the internet.  Regular readers might already be aware of my on-going struggle to reign in my obsession with it, and may be bored out of their brains with my seemingly constant references to it - as I am myself.  But bear with me: this time I may actually have had a genuine epiphany.

As usual, I have not posted for so long because I’ve been stuck on the web.  In between bouts of trawling, I’ve been tying myself in knots trying to work out why I can’t seem to stay away from it, and how to manage my use of it (which, ironically, is all part of the obsession - so even when I’m not on there, I’m worrying about how to stay off there, etc).  

This time around, I finally determined that it’s an addiction - that I’d been “in denial”, minimising and rationalising my behaviour (for example, by blaming it on my ADHD).  After all, did it not fit within the simple AA definition of addiction in the Big Book:

‘If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic.  If that be the case, you may be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer.”

Substitute internet use for drinking, and it described perfectly what seemed to be the problem - inability to choose to stay off there (away from my compulsive web-trawling, as opposed to my “responsible” use of the internet for things like communication, or blogging) for any decent length of time even when I wanted to, or needed to in order to get anything else done; and lack of control over what I would do once I got on there, which not even extreme tiredness, or physical pain, could induce me to stop.

And, also as described in the Big Book, I have tried all ways to control it (egs setting up rules, using a timer, hiding the router AND the computer at times) - and failed.  All that’s done is driven me round the bloody bend, obsessing about how to stop being so bloody obsessed with the bloody thing!

I’ve tried fear, I’ve tried guilt, I’ve tried coaxing; and I’ve done what I do with everything, which is to compartmentalise it into two distinct and extreme camps (because I really don’t do middle ground) - those being my responsible, sensible, creative, productive use of it; and my unproductive, wasteful, negative use.  They haven’t worked.  

The unfortunate effect of categorisation is that, by extension, whenever I ‘give in’ to my compulsion, I judge myself to be choosing to be irresponsible, unproductive, and slothful; that I could stop myself if I really wanted to; that I just need to ‘pull myself together” (like a pair of curtains), and pull my socks up (as if having droopy socks are responsible for me not applying myself, or trying hard enough?!)   

Yet Step One of the AA programme says that, when it comes to addiction, we are unable to exercise free choice when we are in the grip of an overpowering mental obsession and physical compulsion to use whatever substance or behaviour it is to which we find ourselves enslaved, no matter the damage it may be causing. 

So, having arrived at what I thought was the right conclusion, I set about applying the solution: part of which involved the practical first step of trying to ‘detox’ (AGAIN) from my compulsive use of the internet.  Only this time (I thought) it was going to be different, because I believed I’d got to the root of my dilemma - finally identifying what the problem actually was.

Then I had a conversation with my sponsor/best friend, who mentioned that we’d been here before (with alarmingly frequent regularity) - having an obsessive conversation about my obsessive use of the internet; and that perhaps it wasn’t an addiction after all.  Did I not recall that being obsessed is part of being autistic, she asked (for probably the ten thousandth time since I’d been diagnosed back in 2010)?

And something clicked.  Perhaps she was right?  And perhaps it was time to try to make a wholesale shift in the way I think about myself, because I still seem to have some vague, unconscious idea that there are still parts of me - like my alcoholism, for instance - which are the same as the neurotypical version, and aren’t influenced by my autism: as if I have a brain that is separated into two halves (one being the autistic part, and the other the neurotypical), and they operate in tandem; and I just need to find a way to tap into the NT side in order to overcome the influence of the autism/adhd.  Fuck’s sake!  I thought I’d got over this ‘split personality’ business already!

I realise I haven’t gone into any specific details about the confusing similarities between autism and addiction, which I intended to include here, but this post is already long enough, so I’ve decided to split it up, and (hopefully!) I’ll write a second one about that stuff, soon.  I’m just relieved to have finally got something written.

May you find clarity and truth about your own life.    

28 April 2017

A Pile Of Pooh!

The REAL Pooh!

Okay, I have to do this: it just cannot be borne any longer. *clasps hand to heart, and sighs deeply*

There is something I’ve been needing to get off my chest for a while now (and I don’t mean my bra.  It’s a saying we have here in England - not sure if it’s used in the rest of the UK because I don’t live there.  But it’s rather apt, given that your heart is situated in the chest area.  But I digress).  I know it’s not earth-shatteringly important in the scheme of things, but to me it is a major bugbear (bear - Pooh bear - ha ha ha *rolls eyes at own wit*), and the time has come to put people right.

Winnie the Pooh was written by AA Milne, who was English.  He wrote two books of stories about those characters, which were published in 1926 and 1928.  That’s all.  TWO BOOKS SPECIFICALLY ABOUT POOH.  He died in 1956.  

Since then, the character of Pooh has been appropriated by Disney, and therein lies the problem.  More books have been written about the Pooh characters, and people quote from them, and attribute said quotes to the REAL Pooh, and AA Milne.  Except that they have nothing to do with the real Pooh at all.  

They are the Disneyfied, homogenised (and I have to say it, so please don’t be offended because I know it’s not all of you), Americanised versions - which means they now churn out sentimental stories about Pooh and friends that are saccharine-sweet, sugar-coated, sappy clap-trap, full of dumbed-down ‘life lessons’, and rousing motivational speeches about how “you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  Yuck!!!  Makes me want to tear my hair out, and vomit.

(As a side note, I just checked on Google the date of AA Milne’s death, and the first two of three Pooh quotes listed were Disney ones, the first being the awful one that I’ve just quoted above!  AAAAAaaaaaahhhhh!!!! *runs screaming around the room in circles, like a demented duck*)

STOP IT!!!  Just STOP IT, would you?!  If you’re going to quote AA Milne, and Pooh, at least make sure you’re bloody well quoting the REAL thing, and not the bloody fake shite that Disney churns out.  These characters are not sweet, or cute, and one-dimensional - they are nuanced, and have depth.  The humour is subtle - it’s dry, ironic, sardonic, laconic, droll, deadpan, sarcastic, wry, and even (God forbid!) anarchic.  The man was English, for God’s sake: his humour is quintessentially English (or British).  And here’s the proof:

“Owl,” said Rabbit shortly, “you and I have brains.  The others have fluff.  If there is any thinking to be done in this Forest - and when I say thinking I mean thinking - you and I must do it.”
“Yes,” said Owl.  “I was.”
“Read that.”
Owl took Christopher Robin’s notice from Rabbit and looked at it nervously.  He could spell his own name WOL, and he could spell Tuesday so that you knew it wasn’t Wednesday, and he could read quite comfortably when you weren’t looking over his shoulder and saying “Well?” all the time, and he could…
“Well?” said Rabbit.
“Yes,” said Owl, looking Wise and Thoughtful.  “I see what you mean.  Undoubtedly.”
“Well?”
“Exactly,” said Owl.  “Precisely.”  And he added, after a little thought, “If you had not come to me, I should have come to you.”
“Why?” asked Rabbit.
“For that very reason,” said Owl, hoping that something helpful would happen soon.
“Yesterday morning,” said Rabbit solemnly, “I went to see Christopher Robin.  He was out.  Pinned on his door was a notice!”
“The same notice?”
“A different one.  But the meaning was the same.  It’s very odd.”
“Amazing,” said Owl, looking at the notice again, and getting, just for a moment, a curious sort of feeling that something had happened to Christopher Robin’s back.  “What did you do?”
“Nothing.”
“The best thing,” said Owl wisely.
“Well?” said Rabbit again, as Owl knew he was going to.
“Exactly,” said Owl.
For a little while he couldn’t think of anything more; and then, all of a sudden, he had an idea.
“Tell me, Rabbit,” he said, “the exact words of the first notice.  This is very important.  Everything depends on this.  The exact words of the first notice.”
“It was just the same as that one really.”
Owl looked at him, and wondered whether to push him off the tree; but, feeling that he could always do it afterwards, he tried once more to find out what they were talking about.

I rest my case.  And here endeth the rant.  ‘Normal’ programming will now be resumed.

26 April 2017

LITERARY INSPIRATION #8

BOOK - THE VELVETEEN RABBIT OR HOW TOYS BECOME REAL by Margery Williams

An explosion of rabbits!

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room.  “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse.  “It’s a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.  “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse.  “You become.  It takes a long time.  That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.  Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”


Love this book.  It’s only forty-four pages long, but the message is beautiful, and I always cry when I read about the little rabbit becoming fully real at the end.

And, hopefully, without getting tangled up in abstract language and waffle about feelings (which I have, but have a hard time identifying or expressing “appropriately”), and being emotionally available, and authentic (come again?), here’s what being real means to me, as an autistic.

Stop denying my autism (and adhd) in an attempt to fit into the neurotypical world, which is presented as the primary blueprint for how to live a happy and successful life. 

In practical terms, this means not searching for answers on the internet, or in books and other literature written by non-autistics, for how to manage my life as an autistic. This encompasses everything, from sites dedicated to autism (telling me what’s wrong with me, how to deal with it, and manage my life as an autistic more effectively), to all those non-autistically-related sites that want to tell me how to do everything more effectively and productively, from writing and art, to how to organise everything in my life, from my shelves to my time.  

Simple but not easy, given that I have an in-built, arbitrary drive to copy; a rigid viewpoint about there being a right and wrong answer; and a fear of making mistakes.  Hence constantly checking to see whether I’m doing things right, or whether anyone else has a better answer that I just haven’t thought of because of my limited imagination.  Plus, I just seem to have a peculiar obsession with all things neurotypical, even when I don’t agree with anything they say!

Of course, this is not very useful in helping me to become more consciously aware of, and comfortable with, who I am, if I’m trying to look at myself through the eyes of someone who has no comprehension or experience of what it’s like to be autistic.

Ultimately, though, I think the message of this book is that becoming real is a gradual process which happens over time.  So, even though I do still get lost at times comparing myself to non-autistics, and temporarily forget myself (but who has someone to remind me of the truth of who I am), I have turned into a real person - one who, right now, happens to be really obsessed with the internet! 



04 April 2017

Blunting The Edge

My Lady Wren

Hi.  It’s been a little while since I’ve been able to sit and focus on something longer than a Literary Inspiration post (hence three in a row!).  Not that I’ve lacked ideas - just the ability to develop them beyond the initial draft.  Ironically, it wasn’t even as if I could claim that it was the internet that was distracting me, because it wasn’t.  

I’ve just had two weeks free from my compulsive internet trawling, using it only for essentials, like Sype.  But then I seem to remember the same thing occurring the last time I stayed abstinent - I gradually felt better, my brain calmed down, my mind got clearer, and my attention and focus improved, but I got very little or no writing done.  I did, however, do other things.

And it’s been the same this time.  I have actually managed to paint a picture (the first since July last year).  Whilst that in itself was great, the best thing about it was the fact that I enjoyed it, and there wasn’t the same amount of angst which usually accompanies it.

Whilst I have struggled to write any posts, I actually managed to write a bit of fiction, which I have done in the past, but have struggled with since.

And then there’s the fact that I have rediscovered the joy in my yoga practice, rather than it just being a necessity to my well-being, which is how I regard it (my alternative version to medication to help manage my anxiety and adhd, because I cannot take drugs due to being an alcoholic/addict).  Being obsessed with the computer means that my interest in everything else falls by the wayside - which includes my beloved yoga.

So, two weeks of freedom.  Again.  Two weeks appears to be my sticking point, at the moment.  It’s the longest I’m able to manage before I drift back to the internet.  I used to have the same thing occur when I was trying to become abstinent from overeating, which I used to find frustrating and disheartening.  

But I didn’t give up, and I got beyond that point when I was ready (which is usually not when you think you are), so I know that it’s just a part of the process, and not to listen to the Voice of Doom that tells me I’ll never be able to get completely free of this compulsion; or that I should accept it as part of the erratic nature of my adhd, and give up trying to manage it.  Accept that I need something to take the edge off of my anxiety, adhd, and all the other stuff about being me that makes everything I feel so acute, and that this is the lesser of the evils I have used (alcohol, medication, food, television). 

Except that it only works to take the edge of whilst I’m on there.  And then I’m left not only with the compulsion to keep going back, but also an increase in the symptoms that I was seeking to relieve.  My anxiety ramps up, I become more agitated, my focus and attention is shot to bits, and my brain feels like it’s melting.  Plus, I forget who I am, because I’m absorbing other peoples’ opinions again.

And here’s the other thing: I actually do have practical ways of taking the edge off, but without the negative consequences - with faith in a higher power, prayer/meditation, yoga, the change in my diet, and the barest bones of a daily routine to keep things ticking over and manageable - but no plans!!  They’re not instant, and they don’t render me unconscious (ie functioning, but not quite all here - like the walking dead, rather than someone in a coma), but they work to bring everything down to a manageable level.  

So, what happened to bring that ‘golden period’ to an end (other than me forgetting, yet again, the inevitable consequences of me web-trawling?)  Because there’s always a reason, as I learnt with alcohol, food, and any other addictive/compulsive behaviour - it doesn’t just happen that I find myself back trawling the internet, or with a drink in my hand, or bingeing on food. There’s a build-up which, if it isn’t being dealt with, turns into a mental and emotional tsunami.  

It may be the quietest tsunami you ever saw, because I am so poor at self-awareness, and so slow to process what’s happening to me, that it mostly doesn’t look like anything is wrong at all; but you’ll know it by the end result - me seeking ‘comfort’ and distraction on the internet from the feelings of restlessness, which I don’t recognise as being related to what’s happening in my life.  

Of course, this ‘comfort’ is only temporary, and not very comforting at all, given some of the stuff I sometimes inadvertently come across whilst trawling, and all that happens is that my life then becomes chaotic (more so than the manageable chaos which seems to be an intrinsic part of who I am - a trait which I have yet to accept as a fact, whilst I still strive to be Mrs Meticulously Tidy and Organised).

Here, then, are the events.

In November last year, I had to fill in an assessment form for the new disability benefit which is replacing the old one.  The DWP scares me to death, and I’m hopeless at filling in forms.

In January my friend Dee (who lives in Scotland, and I haven’t seen in person for about two years) visited on two separate occasions (staying overnight each time).  The second visit was in order to accompany me to the medical assessment I’d been called to attend for the new disability benefit.

Leaving aside the assessment, you’d assume that her visit would be a nice thing - and it is.  Except that I’m autistic - EXTREMELY autistic, and I don’t deal well with being around people, even in my own home, even when they are my closest friends.  It’s not relaxing, for either of us, as I have no idea how to behave, and I end up hovering around her.

As to the medical assessment, I haven’t had to go to one of these for quite a few years.  This ramped up my anxiety about the possibility of them taking away that money.

In February they informed me that, not only had I been awarded the new benefit, but that it had been increased substantially.  Yet again, you’d think this would be welcome: and it is.  But that doesn’t change the fact that, whether it’s good or bad news, I’m still clueless as to how to deal with it. 

Also as a consequence of both Dee’s visit and the assessment, she told me that I’m a lot further along on the autism spectrum than we thought - closer to the Temple Grandin autistic end, rather than the Asperger’s.  Whilst I know that I am extremely affected, it still comes as a bit of an unwelcome surprise to be told just how much so. 

Around the same time, I extended my circle of contacts from one (my friend Dee), to two.  And then, in the last week, I added another.  This is a big deal for me.  

I have been perfectly content to only engage with one person for a long time now (in this regard, I am classically autistic, preferring my own company to that of other people because of the stress engaging with them induces.  Plus, too many people offering too many differing viewpoints and opinions confuses me).  

But, as she said, she is coming up to her seventieth birthday this year, and, assuming she dies before me (jolly, I know!), I have no-one else with whom to share, or for support.  And whilst I may prefer my own company, and to have as few people in my life as possible, I do actually enjoy my limited interactions with her; and even I know that I need to have some people with whom to converse at a deeper level than simply to exchange polite greetings, the way I do with neighbours. 

It is also my fiftieth birthday coming up which, whilst I’m not consciously aware of it causing me any conflict (mostly because I just ignore it, the way I do every birthday - it’s just a number to me), no doubt there’s something going on.  

For one thing, I have found myself thinking more frequently about how I’ve got less time to do stuff, and how I wish I’d got my act together a lot sooner (particularly with regard to writing and art, but also with accepting and managing my autism/adhd).  I also sometimes find myself envying those who’ve been diagnosed earlier, which is not helpful, ‘cos it just leads to me feeling regret about my life. 

And then, in the last few days, I found out that one of my Aunts has died.  She is the last of my dad’s six brothers and sisters, and she was the oldest.  It wasn’t a shock (she was into her eighties), but, due to the distant and confusing nature of our relationship (of my relationship with the whole of my family), I have no idea how I feel, or what to do.

This culminated in me having the ridiculous idea (given that I cannot paint to order) that, rather than buy a card, I would like to paint one to send to her family (these are people I haven’t seen, or spoken to, for over twenty years).  And so I came on here to look for photos of appropriate flowers.  And got overwhelmed. And then got distracted.  And got lost for three days.  And now here I am, trying to drag myself back out of it.  Well it inspired me to write, anyway, which is the ultimate irony.

So there you have it - the anatomy of an autistic meltdown.

I hope that the only things melting in your life are food-related.

Śanti

31 March 2017

LITERARY INSPIRATION #7

BOOK - THE HOUSE IN NORHAM GARDENS by Penelope Lively


“There is a rather regrettable tendency nowadays to fence people off according to age.  The “young” - as though they were some particular breed.  A misleading idea, on the whole.  Perhaps you are just not good at being fenced off.”
“Oh.  I see.”
“The same is done to us, of course.  The old.”
“Do you feel fenced off?”
“Only by the tiresome business of one’s joints going stiff, and one’s teeth falling out, and not hearing so well.  Otherwise one is much the same person as one has always been, and the world is no less an interesting place, I promise you.”


“That must be good.  To live with old people.”
“Yes.  Yes, it is.”
“But here you do not respect old people as much as we do.  In my country we admire the old.  We take advice from them.  Here it is the young who are admired.”
“Oh,” said Clare.  “Are they?”
“Of course.  Haven’t you noticed?  They are made to feel important.  Their opinions.  What they say, what they want.  You push your old to one side.  You let them be poor.”

Despite being published in 1974, when I was seven years old, I’d never heard of this book until last year.  It is possible that I did read it back in the depths of my childhood, but that I have forgotten it - I did devour so many books, so quickly, once I discovered the joy of reading, that I cannot recollect all of them.  

Then there’s the fact that this is a very ‘quiet’, character-driven book, full of nuanced messages, and hardly any action - all of which would have gone completely over my head back then, and would not have interested me.  I was attracted to adventure books, like The Famous Five, Mallory Towers, and the Nancy Drew books; which then morphed into the thrillers of authors like Alistair Maclean, Desmond Bagley, Frederick Forsyth, and Gerald Seymour.  High on plot and action, low on all of that sappy emotional waffle, is how I viewed things back then.  

Notice how there’s a lack of female authors in that list.  By the time I reached my teens, I’d developed an abhorrence for all things feminine, which I considered to be weak, and wussy - an example of me doing what it describes in the first quote, ‘fencing people off’ (known to me as compartmentalising), only I did it based on gender rather than age. 

But, remarkably, here I am now, discovering a wonderful world of ‘quiet, character-driven’ literature (mostly written by women, mostly children’s books) filled with timeless messages - in this instance, about the young (and youth) being revered, and the old (and ageing) largely ignored and/or reviled, and both demographics being pigeonholed.

And I have to say, as I head towards my fiftieth birthday this year, that getting older is not the awful experience I imagined it to be (which was based mostly on the messages I’ve received and absorbed from the anti-ageist society I live in).  It’s true: based on my increased life experience, I actually do have more wisdom now (or perhaps that should be 'some'?!).  

I also feel more intelligent, which is probably based on the increase in knowledge I have attained; though it hasn't changed the fact that I still don't have any common sense, and that what's obvious to other people is not so to me.  As my friend Dee says, I am so intelligent that she can't believe how dumb I am sometimes! 

Plus, the most fun, least conventional, most unique, creative, energetic, enthusiastic, interesting, knowledgeable, and wisest person I know on the planet (and have ever met in my entire life) is my best friend Dee, who just happens to be coming up to her seventieth birthday, and actually gets younger in spirit every year, as she continues to be freed from the constraints that society tries to place on us.  

So, those people who revere youth can keep it.  I never had a worse time in my life than the first thirty years.  It was so miserable, I tried to put an end to it after twenty-one.  I now consider that, for some of us, youth is an affliction not a blessing.    

LITERARY INSPIRATION #6

BOOK - THE HOUSE IN NORHAM GARDENS by Penelope Lively


“So what I really wanted to say was that you must remember that language is an instrument, Clare.  An instrument to be used precisely.  Nobody can say what they mean until they use words with precision.”


“Language,” said Clare to Liz, “is an instrument.  You have to use it precisely.  Like a screwdriver or something.  Not just bash around vaguely?”
“What are you on about?”
“But the trouble is people don’t.  They say things like “quite” and “rather” and “ever so many” and “by and large” and “much of a muchness” and “quite a few”.  Now what do you suppose a person means when he says “quite a few”?”
Liz said, “It would depend what he meant quite a few of.  Bananas, or miles, or people living in Manchester.”
“Years.”
“Then it could mean anything.”
“Quite,” said Clare.

My sentiments exactly!  I couldn’t have put it better myself.  She has expressed succinctly in two passages the literary and conversational frustrations of a literal-minded and grammar-obsessed autistic.  Enough said.  I should just let the words speak for themselves.  Shut up, Lisa, and sod off. 

Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
An experiment in watercolour and gouache

Quotes Quota

"Do you believe in Magic?" asked Colin.

"That I do, lad," she answered. "I never knowed it by that name, but what does th' name matter? I warrant they call it a different name i' France an' a different one i' Germany. Th' same thing as set th' seeds swellin' an' th' sun shinin' made thee well lad an' it's th' Good Thing. It isn't like us poor fools as think it matters if us is called out of our names. Th' Big Good Thing doesn't stop to worrit, bless thee. It goes on makin' worlds by th' million - worlds like us. Never thee stop believin' in th' Big Good Thing an' knowin' th' world's full of it - an call it what tha' likes. Eh! lad, lad - what's names to th' Joy Maker."

From 'The Secret Garden', by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Love

Love
Copied from photograph of the same name by Roberto Dutesco

Quotes Quota

"There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way."
The Dalai Lama

"If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything."

Malcolm X

On The Prowl

On The Prowl
Watercolour tiger

Quotes Quota

"What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step."

"There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind."

C S Lewis